Stress does so much to our total well-being that it’s no wonder that there are so many ways to try to manage stress. Whether you need to ramp things up at work or you simply don’t feel that you’re giving it all in life, here is a little on how to manage stress and be more productive. We will look at how stress affects us, what to do about it, and how to make us more productive.

What Does Stress Do to the Body and Mind?

Sometimes we think that there’s something wrong with us and that something can be stress. That headache you have or insomnia may not be related to an illness but is instead due to the stress in your life. You may not even realize that stress is affecting you. For instance, there are plenty of common effects that mimic other issues such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Mood swings

These are just a few of the symptoms stress causes. These affect your mood, your behavior, and your body and mind. One of the most surprising things is that it doesn’t take major stress to cause us to react. According to the experts at the American Institute of Stress:

“The small stresses of everyday life can cause daily, low-level stress that activates stress hormones in the body, which ultimately affects how people feel,” he says. “The interesting thing is that we don’t always know why people respond in the way they do.”

Often, a long-term build-up of these minor stresses — when the body doesn’t go back to “normal” — causes people to experience weird symptoms. “Acute stress tends not to have an effect on health,” says Sharon Bergquist, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. “It’s the activation of chronic stress when people don’t go back to their baseline of rest and recovery, that tends to affect people.”

What Causes Stress?

Stress is caused by our body responding to a threat or damage. It is how it protects us from certain dangers. While you might not think getting to work late is a danger, it still can create a stress response. Interestingly enough, since your body cannot determine the difference in a dangerous stressful situation or the aforementioned being late to work, it reacts the same way. So if you’re stressed over a late assignment or a bill you can’t pay, your body may react the same as if you were in immediate danger with a life or death situation.

One of the major causes of stress is work-related. There are various reasons why someone may be stressed at work and these include factors such as:

  • Excessive workload
  • Not feeling appreciated
  • No social support
  • Low pay
  • Work that is boring or isn’t a challenge
  • No growth opportunities
  • Unclear demands or expectations
  • No input in job decisions or work-related criteria

The problem is that even when you’re not at work, the stress stays. It doesn’t go away simply because you’ve gone home for the day or have the weekend off.

Work is obviously not the only area where we are stressed. Some people find their home life stressful. Others lead stressful lives due to school. And it is important to note that it’s not just older adults who deal with stress. Even younger children can experience stress due to a variety of reasons.

Grief is a major stressor and financial stress is too. There are many stressful situations and you may even experience more than one at a time. For instance, grief over the loss of a loved one and the strain of financial difficulties due to that loss of income. There is actually a top 10 list of the most stressful events that happen to someone. They include the following:

  1. Retirement
  2. Death of a spouse
  3. Marriage reconciliation
  4. Marriage separation
  5. Job loss
  6. Imprisonment
  7. Marriage
  8. Death of a close family member
  9. Illness or injury
  10. Divorce

How We Deal With Stress

Another problem with stress is how we deal with it. Some deal with it in ways that are unhealthy and detrimental to our health. Take for instance those who overeat, use drugs, drink too much, or smoke. Those are just a few examples of things people do when they’re stressed out and want to calm down. The problem with that is it does not address the root of the issue – the cause of the stress in the first place.

Dealing with stress in a way that is harmful can become a habit that leads to more feelings of pressure or tension. For instance, someone who is stressed over a financial issue then uses an unhealthy habit such as drugs to compensate may find themselves in even more financial trouble. This is a cycle that can be hard to break.

Healthy Ways to Manage Stress

Managing stress and being more productive is not as much the issue as is how we manage stress. There are healthy ways to do this and those are the types of management skills that are both helpful and conducive to better health in general.

Exercise

Exercise (and eating well) is not just something you do for your general health. It actually helps minimize your stress levels as well. Why? When we exercise natural endorphins are produced. These endorphins are what we have in our brain that is natural pain relievers. There are plenty of exercise-type activities that release these endorphins. These include breathing deeply, meditation, massage therapy, acupuncture, and of course – exercise. The next time you are feeling

Recharging

Recharging simply means disconnecting from the stress. If you can, take a walk and enjoy nature. Listen to music or read a book. Anything that takes you to mind off of your stress is ideal for recharging and replenishing. If it’s stress from work or school, take some time to do things that aren’t related to work or school in any capacity. Live those moments like you don’t have a job or don’t go to school and focus on anything but the very thing that is stressing you. Even taking a nap is a good way to recharge after a particularly stressful day.

Knowing Your Stressors

Knowing the triggers that cause you to stress is important in alleviating some of that stress. One way of doing that is by keeping a journal and writing down the times when you are particularly stressed. What caused the episode? Was it someone at work undermining your project? Did your family not help with chores or make a mess after you’d just cleaned up? Anything can be a stressor and by recognizing what they are, you can be better equipped at dealing with them and not letting them get you down.

Establishing Boundaries

The American Psychological Association shares excellent advice about setting boundaries:

In today’s digital world, it’s easy to feel pressure to be available 24 hours a day. Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. That might mean making a rule not to check email from home in the evening, or not answering the phone during dinner. Although people have different preferences when it comes to how much they blend their work and home life, creating some clear boundaries between these realms can reduce the potential for work-life conflict and the stress that goes with it.

Get the Support You Need

It’s okay to get help when you need it. Stress-related disorders can be debilitating. Whether it’s post-traumatic stress disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), your stress can lead to bigger issues if not taken care of. Here are Transformations Treatment Center, we realize that not everyone can keep stress at bay and may need more help than lifestyle changes give.

If you have tried some of the lifestyle changes mentioned above and are not feeling a difference, it may be a good idea to see someone. Treatment involves things like learning how to change bad behaviors, how to fend off those feelings of stress, and how to look for triggers. Dealing with stress and stressful situations is not always easy but you can learn to do the things that help you manage it better and we are here to give you the support you need.

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